Concord, NH - A review by the Associated Press of the New Hampshire Republicans' campaign promise to create jobs found the results "narrowly focused" and included concern voiced by several staunch Republicans over the legislature's current agenda. Despite House and Senate Republicans' claims, the AP noted "the best early measure of success - the unemployment rate - has instead risen," while "businesses give mixed reviews to the law changes" passed thus far.
Beyond the headline, more than 1,700 New Hampshire residents have lost their jobs as a direct result of the state budget passed by the new Republican legislature. [Chart]
The full text of the story from the Associated Press is below.
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- When Republicans took control of the House and Senate from Democrats last year, they promised New Hampshire voters they would pass legislation resulting in more jobs.
But after 10 months in power, the results are inconclusive despite Republican leaders' use of the bully pulpit to claim they have already made good on that promise. The best early measure of success - the unemployment rate - has instead risen due partly to as many as 1,000 university, government and hospital layoffs attributable to the Republican-passed state budget. Several hundred more are taking buyouts or retiring early rather than being laid off, according to the state, university system and hospital association, which are keeping track of the budget's impact on workers.
House Republican Leader D.J. Bettencourt, who regularly emails reporters comments on a variety of subjects, was quick to claim credit when the state's jobless rate hit 4.9 percent in April, down from 5.5 percent when Republicans took control in January.
"It appears we are starting to bear the fruit of our hard work in the New Hampshire Legislature," Bettencourt said in May.
After a steady decline from a peak of 6.7 percent in January 2010, when Democrats were still in charge, the jobless rate hit a low of 4.8 percent in May, but then started rising again.
When the rate returned to 4.9 percent in June, Republican House Speaker William O'Brien called it a one-time jump while government was scaled back "to the appropriate size" through budget cuts. But the rate has continued to climb and was 5.4 percent in September.
At the request of The Associated Press, House and Senate leaders produced 55 law changes they say are evidence they created an environment conducive to businesses creating jobs.
Businesses give mixed reviews to the law changes with at least one notable exception of a broadly applied law modifying how much small business owners can claim as income before facing business taxes. The law sets $50,000 as the amount business owners can pay themselves as income without justifying it to the state if they are audited.
Most of the other laws are applied much more narrowly.
Two potentially significant changes don't take effect until 2013 and 2014 respectively. One lets businesses offset losses against future profits; the other doubles the time businesses can apply the losses.
Tim Sink, president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, it is premature to assess the impact. He credits the GOP with not raising taxes on business to pay for state spending in the state budget and instead making deep spending cuts.
"It sends a message that we're going to live within our means," he said.
David Juvet, senior vice president of the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association, agrees there was a heightened awareness of business concerns, but he said not all the changes were positive. He cited a $230 million budget cut affecting hospitals that has resulted in layoffs and other cost-cutting measures. Juvet expects higher private insurance rates will make up the difference.
"It affects every business in the state that chooses to provide health care to employees," he said.
Many of the new laws affect regulations for specific and sometimes small groups, such as eliminating an unenforced requirement for restaurants to shape and color the butter substitute oleomargarine to distinguish it from butter and margarine. Oleomargarine, butter and margarine are labeled according to their ingredients. Some have Democratic sponsors and many passed with bipartisan support with little opposition.
One eliminates an unenforced provision on filing fees by political candidates.
"How does that create jobs?" questioned House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli. Norelli, who was House speaker during last four years when Democrats were in charge, said many of the bills on the GOP list are so-called housekeeping measures that come up every year to clean up outdated and conflicting laws.
Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, said it is difficult to say if jobs will be added since there isn't a lot of analysis on the new laws' potential impact.
"Most are targeted to industries that are a small part of the New Hampshire economy," he said.
For example, one allows street vendors to sell miniature flags and flowers.
"That's certainly a reduction in regulation, but it doesn't affect the broad retail economy," he said.
Republicans kept their campaign promise to end a surcharge on motor vehicle registrations ranging from $30 to $75 to put more money in business owners' and consumers' pockets. But the loss of the $90 million the surcharge would have raised for highway projects over the two-year life of their budget also has drawn criticism from the construction industry.
"I think that's going to hurt the whole economy. Companies looking to relocate here look for a good transportation system," said Gary Abbott of the Associated General Contractors of New Hampshire.
On the other hand, the New Hampshire Grocers Association won a 10-cent per pack cut in the cigarette tax it said would increase sales at border convenience stores since surrounding states charge higher prices.
"It is more business-friendly than in the past," association president John Dumais said of the GOP Legislature.
Soon after New Hampshire lowered its tax manufacturers raised wholesale prices 9 cents per pack putting in doubt whether the higher revenues would be realized. Through October, state tobacco revenues lagged almost $3.5 million behind projections.
Unlike their House counterparts, Senate Republican leaders maintained a lower profile.
"We haven't tried to be flashy. We haven't tried to be partisan," said Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro.
Bradley is given credit for shepherding into law significant changes to regulations governing construction along the state's rivers and lakes. Without the changes, shoreland construction would have come to a halt.
"If there weren't a few big homes being built on the lake, the building industry would be totally in the tank," said Bradley.
Joe Skiffington, owner of Skiffington Homes in Center Harbor, said the law not only allowed him to hold onto his existing workers, but allowed him to add four people. He started work on two houses because of the change and hoped to start more.
Skiffington credits Bradley, but also the state, the home builders association and Democrats who worked on the bill.
"I wouldn't give credit to either side. I'd give credit to both," he said.